2019 will mark my 16th year as Carson City’s representative on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board. Anyone familiar with this bi-state organization, which has regulated development in the Tahoe Basin since 1969, knows about its tumultuous history. Over the years it has been both revered and reviled — cursed by those who felt it improperly impinged upon private property rights and praised by those who felt it was the only chance of saving the lake from inevitable ruination.
Although the tone and tenor of the agency has changed over the years, in part, due to the differences in the personalities and priorities of its executive directors, during my tenure on the board I’ve witnessed something miraculous — the ability of men and women with diverse backgrounds and political points of view to work harmoniously toward a common goal.
People familiar with the rancor of politics, especially at the national level, revel at the collegiality among TRPA Board members. We speak, we disagree, we look for common ground and we try to reach consensus or, at least, a plurality of opinion on the issues before us. The benefit of this approach was evident by the unanimous approval by the board recently of a new shoreline plan, some innovative changes to the development rights system that, with any luck, will lead to greater environmentally beneficial redevelopment, and the approval of the long-awaited US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project.
What accounts for our ability to work together on complex and often contentious issues? In large part, it’s our willingness to work collaboratively with stakeholders in and outside the basin — the people and organizations who are passionate about their callings, who want to be heard and want their opinions to matter. However, it’s also about respecting one’s colleagues and looking for ways to address their concerns without sacrificing your own principles. Perhaps it’s also because our service as board members on TRPA is voluntary and uncompensated. We’re there because we care and not because we wish to further a political agenda, advance our careers or establish and maintain a grasp on power.
We’re by no means paragons of virtue, but we’re people with a purpose and a sincere desire to serve the public to the best of our abilities. We’re focused on moving a common agenda forward in a manner that benefits the environment, the local economy and the social fabric of the Tahoe community. As allies in this task we’re aided by a highly capable, practical and dedicated group of staff members led by an executive director who has worked tirelessly to change the culture at TRPA by promoting respectful dialogue, good customer service and a moderate and balanced approach to achieving the agency’s objectives. Perhaps, in some small way, we can set an example for others to follow.
Shelly Aldean is Carson City’s representative on the TRPA Governing Board.